{recipe/tutorial} Working with Natural Colorants

I receive Emails asking how to work with natural colorants, all the time. For those who don't know: the reason this question is directed at me often, is because in my shop, Milk and Honey Naturals, I only work with natural colorants. There actually isn't too much complete free information on the subject. Over the past 2 years, I have seen a few books come out and small informationals on independent blogs. For me, being a little ahead of the reemergence of the natural trend, it has been a constant success or fail experiment. I actually love that I learned on my own because I have a swaray of hundreds of natural colorants and some of the best techniques. Today, I'm going to share one of my secrets to creating inexpensive natural botanical colorants, show a little of the process and give some tips of the trade. In the future, look for my tips on clay colorants, mud colorants, activated charcoal, and more!

I only use powdered herbs for color and color infusions. You can start with pre-powdered herbs -but- I prefer to either dry my own herbs or purchase organic dried herbs and powder them myself. I throw a 1/2 cup of thoroughly dried herbs into my kids Baby Bullet. They don't need it anymore and it works amazingly {thank you again, Blanca!}. You can also use a small food processor. I blend a minute or so until it becomes a smooth powder - similar to the consistency of baby powder.

Get creative! You can powder anything dried and use it as a natural colorant. If it's orange, it will make orange and yellow, if it's green, it will make green and yellow and so on. Just be careful to stay away from skin irritating colorants such as cinnamon, cayenne, etc...Instead, for red hues use something such as madder root and for orange hues, something along the lines of an annatto seed powder.

Today, I actually created a special soap for my family, that is also temporarily available in my shop.  It is a blend of sweet orange, rosemary and vetiver essential oils, with rosemary powder as a natural green colorant and light exfoliant {click here to learn more}.  This particular creation was born out of a necessity for extra moisture and pampering. Winter is already killing my skin.  It's amazing for body and face. 

You have two great options for coloring {as mentioned above}. If you want herb free, straight color, you're going to infuse and if you want a slight exfoliant with beautiful speckles of herb through your product, you're going to directly add.

My favorite method for infusing color is taking 1 cup of sweet almond oil and adding 3 tablespoons of powdered botanicals. I put in a cool, dark place in an airtight glass container for 2-6 weeks. I check often, give a little stir and when the oil is the color I want, I'm ready for the straining process. When it's ready, I strain through a cheesecloth and my colored oils are ready to use. You can add a few drops, all the way up to 2 teaspoons per pound or more for a lovely natural colorant.

The cleanest and easiest way to strain: Fit strainer over bowl, lay cheesecloth in the strainer. Pour your oil and herb infusion straight into the cheesecloth. When the oil is mostly drained, pick up the cheesecloth and squeeze all the extra oil out of the herbs. That's it! Pack up in airtight glass containers and store in a cool, dry place. Shelf life is around 1 year.

If you'd like to quicken the process, add your oil infusion to a crock pot for 2-6 hours until desired color, cheesecloth strain and you're done.

My final fave method is using tea bags. Purchase the large, family size tea bags, fill with your powdered herbs, seal and add the tea bag to the oil in the glass jars. Put the jars in a pot with the water at least an inch below the glass jar lid. Put the heat on low for 2 hours. Check your color - Remove the properly colored jars and allow them to cool completely. You can continue to heat your other colors up to 6 hours to achieve proper color, or let cool infuse a few days to finish developing. When all jars have bags removed, store away and use the oils at your leisure. They hold about a 1 year shelf life using all methods. No straining required for this method, as all the herbs are enclosed in the tea bag.

Direct Addition
Directly adding herbs to your products adds for a natural speckled look and mild exfoliation properties. You can pour the powder straight into your products and stir well, or add equal parts sweet almond oil to the powdered herbs, mix well, then incorporate into your concoction.

That's it! It is simple, completely natural and nothing will make you feel better than washing and dolling up with something direct from the outdoors - lovely, natural and nature made.

For a wonderful, organic, botanical resource, organic essential oils, etc...check out:

Organic Creations

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